Durango needs jobs, and City Council candidate Jamie McMillan said it’s the city’s responsibility to identify the companies that can bring them and to provide incentives to do so.
McMillan, a 51-year-old financial adviser, said his campaign for city office will focus on encouraging private sector development and involvement in the community to solve many of the issues facing the city.
The nine-year resident of Durango offered broad solutions to some of the city’s most vexing questions:
The city is running out of money? Bring in more jobs, more paychecks and more people, he said. People are sleeping outside? Facilitate conversation between private and nonprofit organizations to raise money for a shelter, he said. It is not the responsibility of city government to provide housing for the homeless, he said. The city can work as a forum for a conversation about getting people without housing somewhere to stay, but it’s up to nonprofits, private organizations and residents to raise the money to build a shelter, he said.
“The money is out there,” McMillan said. “A lot of solutions are driven by, and maybe get better results from, individual owners.”
The city lacks affordable housing? Give builders incentives to build housing options for all, he said.Affordable housing can come from the city encouraging development by adapting its permitting process, McMillan said. He said he’s not sure exactly what the answer is – it could be being more careful about who gets to build here – but he’s willing to learn, he said.
McMillan moved to Durango from Orange County, California, in 2010 to start an investment advisory business. Watching the city grow, and growing his business with it, encouraged him to start looking more at how the city operates. He found the issues facing municipal government “occupiable,” he said.
“That’s where you can really make a difference,” McMillan said.
That doesn’t mean making a difference is easy. The current City Council has addressed fiscal sustainability in water and sewer funds but has yet to manage rising expenditures in the general fund – which pays for, in brief, staff salaries, law enforcement, streets and sidewalk improvements.
The current council has voted twice to ask voters to raise taxes to fix the problem. McMillan said that won’t work.
With the high cost of housing, health care and higher education, city residents are cutting corners to live in Durango, McMillan said. Adding an additional expense to residents’ budgets isn’t fair, he said.
McMillan said he hopes to use his experience in the private financial sector to help fine-tune Durango’s economy to attract businesses and, therefore, more residents. Government doesn’t lead the economy, it follows it, he said. It’s the city’s responsibility to react and tweak the budget to ensure fiscal sustainability, he added.